Growing up, I don't think I ever really thought about pedestrian traffic lights. They were merely a pragmatic means to safely convey people travelling by foot across busy roads populated by vehicular traffic. That was, until I first visited Berlin, Germany, when the humble Ampelmann of the former soviet East Germany, has somewhat of a cult following.
On October 13th, 1961, the traffic psychologist Karl Peglau submitted his suggestions in Berlin for new traffic light symbols, including very specific ones for pedestrians: the little East German traffic light men were born.
His wide brimmed hat and animated features allowed him to survive German reunification and earn a spot on coffee mugs and T shirts in souvenir shops all over the city.
In 2004, the Ampelmann gained a female counterpart, the Ampelfrau.
Closer to home, the addition of female pedestrian crossing lights in Melbourne, Australia, was met with controversy. Promoted as correcting unconscious gender bias, many criticised the program's own bias in its depiction of stereotypical female clothing, or just declaring a waste of resources that could be better spent fixing real problems.
Leaving aside controversy and getting back to playful traffic lights, the town of Maryborough in Queensland, Australia, birthplace of Mary Poppins author, P. L. Travers, recently installed a set of pedestrian traffic lights with an icon of her famous literary creation, in time for this years Mary Poppins festival.
Last week, while working nearby, I decided to pop-in to check them out.
What do you think about them? Do you know of any other fun pedestrian traffic lights around the world? Should there be equal male/female representation in the automated pedestrian control industry? Does your town have an icon you would like to see in lights?
[Photo attribution: author's own photo, author's own photo, ABC new website, author's own photo collage]